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Gators suffer 33-23 loss to Louisville in Sugar Bowl; Matt Elam, Sharrif Floyd to leave early



First came the 33-23 stunning loss to Louisville, then came the impending loss of two of its top defensive players.

Florida fell behind in the first 15 seconds of Wednesday night's Sugar Bowl and never recovered, eventually falling 33-23 to Louisville at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Shortly after the game, junior S Matt Elam and junior DT Sharrif Floyd both said they will forgo their senior seasons for the NFL.

"It's a blessing that I’m going to get a chance to do what a lot of players want to do,'' Floyd said. "My dream is going to come true."

Floyd said he was completely focused on the Gators and the Sugar Bowl until immediately after the game.

"Just the season I had,'' Floyd said about making his final decision. "The fact that my coaches gave me their blessing and said, ‘Go. You’re ready. Good luck to you.’ If I didn't get that from them, i wouldn't be leaving. i care about what my coaches think and how they feel about me. But i’m moving on now.'

Elam said: "It's always been my dream to play in the NFL. I want to take care of my family."

Louisville sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was 20-of-32 for 266 yards and two touchdowns to earn MVP honors and lead No. 22 Louisville (11-2) to a 33-23 victory over No. 4 Florida (11-2) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“I told our players I love them so much and respect them so much,’’ Louisville coach Charlie Strong said. “It just means a lot for me to see this happen for them. If you focus right and prepare well, you can beat anybody.”

The game wasn't as close as the score might suggest. Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel threw a 5-yard pass to Land O'Lakes alum Kent Taylor with 2:13 remaining in the game to close the gap.

Strong, the Gators’ former defensive coordinator, said the Cardinals needed a win for validation, to prove they could play with powers like the SEC. They earned it with domination, scoring more points against a Gator defense ranked No. 3 in the nation in scoring defense than any other opponent this season.

It was the most points the Gators have given up in a bowl game since the 2008 Capital One Bowl – a 41-35 loss to Michigan, and was Florida’s first in a bowl game since January 2008.

By the end, Louisville fans were chanting "Charlie" for their beloved third-year head coach and "overrated" at the stunned Gators.

“This is an unfortunate setback,’’ Florida coach Will Muschamp said. “I apologize to our fans and our university, but we’ve had a great year.”

[Last modified: Thursday, January 3, 2013 1:06am]


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